"In countries that are just beginning to take seriously the question of research careers, or where postdocs have yet to organise nationally, I can unreservedly recommend the insight and support afforded through membership in ICoRSA." Dr. Andrew Dellis (SARSA, Chair).
Postdoctoral fellowships in South Africa are a relatively recent addition to the research landscape. In December 2011, the South African National Research Foundation hosted a national postdoctoral forum in Cape Town, South Africa. Several international research staff associations were invited to present on their activities. Of especial focus was the value of researcher led associations as platforms for interdisciplinary collaboration and advocacy around common policy issues affecting careers in research. In the discussions that followed, Dr. Tennie Videler (Vitae, United Kingdom), Dr. Maria Buccheri (Marie Curie Fellows), Dr. David Proctor (American National Postdoctoral Association) and Dr. Gordon Dalton (Irish Research Staff association) were instrumental in garnering support among South African fellows for the formation of a South African association, potentially linked to a broader international association.
In January 2012, an ad hoc steering committee of South African postdoctoral fellows established the The South African Research Staff Association (SARSA) as a membership of South African postdoctoral fellows and other research staff. SARSA’s aim is to represent the interests of research scientists in South Africa around common challenges and opportunities, as well as to connect with research staff associations throughout the world. Under the guidance of established international associations, SARSA developed advocacy, resource development and community building strategies for implementation at a national level. In establishing relationships with several international associations - which were increasingly collaborating under the umbrella of ICoRSA - SARSA was able to quickly establish legitimacy with national funders and universities. With the formalisation of ICoRSA, and with SARSA as a founding member, postdocs in South Africa have thus firmly established a credible and representative voice with which to influence research policy.
For SARSA, the international lens provided by ICoRSA has also proved invaluable in contrasting different policy models for postdoc/research staff, especially between countries with long established programmes - such as the US, UK and Ireland.